Endless Yet Valuable Need

My last letter to you was written 4 months ago.  Why has it taken me so long to write you again?  Because I have been learning the same lesson from being your dad for months now.  In fact, for much of this time I could have simply wrote the exact same letter over and over.  As I sat down to write this, I found some notes I made of my thoughts a month and a half ago.  Let me share some of those thoughts with you:

“For weeks I have wanted to write something brilliant, eloquent, and profound, but the reality is that I haven’t had much to say that would fall under that category.  You are 5 months old now, and so far being your dad has been the hardest thing I have ever done.  Surprised by that?  I am, but I can’t get away from the fact that it is completely true.  I am having a hard time.  It is not because you are a bad baby or even difficult to care for.  I am struggling with myself.  Raising you is a daily reminder of what is in my heart, and what I see has been easy to cover up and ignore until now… I am stressed out, frustrated, angry, full of hate, lacking, irritated, unloving, and yet I feel justified.  Inside I see meanness, selfishness, indifference, coldness, insensitivity, and the list could go on and on.”

Around that same time, I remember seeing a friend who also has a baby around your age.  He asked me how I was doing, and I decided for the first time I would be honest about all this and share with him.  To my surprise he responded, “You too?  I thought it was just me!”  Everything I was sharing rang true in his heart also.  There was something so sickening and repulsive about what was revealed in his heart that he was led to conclude that surely no one else would have those same thoughts and feelings.  It was like we were telling each other’s story. 

I am not sure why I am so quick to run from this reality and be ashamed of it as if no one else has the same problem.  I know that the absolute truth is that everyone actually has the exact same problem.  You are just like me.  We all have the same corruption inside, and we all labor intensely to cover it up.  We all know what it is like to believe that if people really knew what was going on inside us they would run away repulsed.  It is easy for us as weak and fallen humans to “pad” our lives.  By this, I mean we work hard to put ourselves in situations that make us feel good about ourselves.  We try very hard to keep away from those that make us feel uncomfortable.  We try to cover up what we know is true of us- the ugliness that we don’t want others to see.  We read books on how to succeed in life and be happy, yet we are depressed because we have to live with what is in our hearts every day.  We take drugs to numb us to the voice inside, and we meet with worldly counselors who tell us to visualize the good and ignore the bad.  We try almost anything to make us feel ok about ourselves inside.  We know that the truth can never come out.  What would people think if they really knew the thoughts and feelings inside me?  Surely they would be repulsed and disgusted.

I have been reminded over the past few months that honesty before God is life-giving.  What I wrote above may seem depressing, yet for those who are honest with the Lord and put their confidence in Him these things are a path to life.  In my notes from a month and a half ago, there were 4 realities that I found encouragement in:

1)      Real needs bring us down from the clouds of pride.  There will be success in life, but there is no room for pride.  Our world pushes us to have pride in ourselves, but such pride just leads us to live a lie.  In fact, that kind of pride causes us to miss out on real life found in God alone.  A life of humble honesty before Him is where true life is found and enjoyed.

2)      Real needs move us to honesty and humility.  No more excuses.  I can’t hide anymore.  What is real must be dealt with.  I have serious issues.  I am a serious issue.  I am an utterly wretched person.  Anything else would be a lie.  Real solutions come at the cost of a true diagnosis of the problem.  It hurts our pride, but God lifts up the humble and repentant.

3)      Real need forces us to look for real solutions.  What do we do when the cover up fails?  What do we do when our need/weakness is exposed before others?  What do we do when the drugs/medicine don’t fix the real problem?  What do we do when the success can’t overwhelm the need?  What do you do when the positive thinking is exposed as a sham?  Real solutions are found in God’s truth not the lies of this world.

4)      Real failure moves us to seek real forgiveness.  Our experience alone tells us that these things should not be.  We know what we are experiencing testifies to our own problem.  We are not what we should be, and we need to recognize that this means we have greatly offended the God who made us to reflect His image.  And yet it is this same holy God who is infinitely compassionate and gracious toward repentant sinners like your dad.  People drown in the misery of their inadequacy and sin, but your dad has learned that there is perfect forgiveness found in the Lord.  Honestly and humility before Him frees us to approach Him and find that forgiveness instead of condemnation. 

In closing I would like to add a fifth,

5)      “Such experiences are the price of a ministry.”  I am so grateful to experience all of this as your dad because it means I am like everyone else.  The Lord desires to use me to serve real people with real problems.  Real life and a close walk with God produces sympathy and understanding of others and their deep need.  Such experience opens the door to real ministry to real people.  Pride separates while humility creates common ground.  A weak man can have weak men as his friends.  Together they can find comfort and strength in a caring and patient God.

I know there is so much more that could be said, but I want to encourage you to always be honest about your need before God.  He knows the truth already, and agreeing with Him is the road to growth and ministry.  I hope you grow up seeing this kind of humility in my life, and I pray that I will respond to your failure with patience and compassion.  If I always point you toward the Lord and His truth, I know you will always find forgiveness, hope, and life.